PASTORAL LETTER 3 – 6TH OCTOBER 2020
Dear Friends at St. Paul’s
This is the third Pastoral Letter I have issued since the lockdowns began back in March 2020. This time some of you will receive it as a voice recording – and my apologies if you receive it in a printed version also.
With Greek Government Covid-19 restrictions in place, we have been blessed compared to most other countries in that we have been permitted to hold public worship since May 17th. After a cautious start we have slowly built up our worship experience again – I am stressing familiarity rather than normality, as we are far from what we knew and loved up until the beginning of March this year.
As I reported before, Zoom has become a familiar feature in the worshipping, praying, and studying life of many in our congregation and with our wider and much cherished group of friends and supporters. Even after we could begin to worship publicly again, we continued to have Zoom Sunday services until the end of June, as well as weekly Evening Prayer, and a weekly bible study. These possibilities have been warmly welcomed and appreciated. I am delighted to say that since the 4th October (St. Francis Day) we can now ‘live Zoom’ our Liturgy from St. Paul’s. The sound is not perfect – we have to negotiate a complex mix of microphones, organ playing and congregational responses and gentle singing. However it is a wonderful way of keeping in touch with the Sunday worship.
These weeks and months of 2020 have been challenging. We are all in one way or another feeling spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically ‘abused’ by this potent virus. It is stretching us and billions of others to their limits, and we are nowhere near resolving its capricious impact on human life. Many are in isolation – either by choice or by imposition. Over a million are sick with the virus, and hundreds of thousands have died. Many are fearful. Although we have every right to have human responses to this pandemic, as Christians we have to reflect also on the words of Christ, spoken when his fishermen disciples were terrified in the eye of a storm, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ (Matthew 14, 27). Sunday 18h October is the Feast of St. Luke – we will include the ‘anointing with oil’ for healing of body, mind and soul, within our Sunday Liturgy.
As we introduce those things in our corporate (church) life together, we are more acutely aware of the things that we are prevented from doing. Our fund-raising events, that are as much social events as they are fund-raising events, are pared back to a minimum, and we have only just been able to introduce a few initiatives in the month of October. Let’s hope we can be allowed to continue them. We are impoverished by having our superb concert programme cancelled; our Christmas Bazaar which has taken place every year for well over 50 years will not be possible this year. All this and more has an impact on our confidence and our public presence at the heart of this great city of Athens, which herself is suffering from the drop in tourism, restricted social life, and commerce, adding to the strains of economic hardship and the ever present challenges of receiving refugees and migrants.
Covid-19 has devastated the income of St. Paul’s Church. We are not supported by the Greek State like the Orthodox Church, nor do we receive income from the Church of England – nor does any English Parish, by the way. We have to raise very cent ourselves. By the end of July we were in the red to the tune of €32,000. Another Quarter is behind us, so our deficit will be even greater now. Our church life is not sustainable under these conditions, and our Anglican presence in Athens is in jeopardy. We have meagre reserves which will rapidly be depleted.
We step out in faith, seeking to do all we can in God’s name as the Anglican Church here, but we need to ask for deeper financial support.
On Saturday 10 October I will be at St. Paul’s from 11.00hrs until 13.00hrs to receive any financial gifts that you might be able to share with us. A special Gift Day envelope is available, and this can be handed in at any time; but you don’t need to use an envelope. By going on to our website (see below) you can make a financial transaction by bank transfer*. Some have been following us since March on Zoom, and are still isolating – stay safe and well, and continue in faith and courage – but we encourage you to try and make arrangements for your weekly or monthly regular contribution to get to us somehow.
You might also like to ‘sponsor’ some specific item – such as helping with the electricity bill, paying for the bread and wine, candles, and other worship items, or gardening materials etc etc. Whatever you choose to do, we pray it will be done joyfully.
On a happy note, I am pleased to say that the book I had published in August, bringing together all the sermons I preached in Lent, Holy week and Eastertide, has been selling well. It costs only €5,00 and every cent goes to help St. Paul’s Church. We have started a weekly table top sale (within the restrictions) and a monthly Grand Raffle. Details of this are on our website. If you wish to join us on live Zoom on a Sunday morning, the log in address is also on our website along with copies of the weekly sermon in print and on recording.
Finally – thank you. Thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you for your commitment and goodwill. Thank you for your gracious loyalty to St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Athens. Pray hard for us during this deeply challenging time.